Why wedding rehearsals are a good idea (Part 1)
Just this week a charming couple told me they want a “spontaneous wedding”. In other words, no real planning, no full-on rehearsal, no quick run-through, no nothing! They’ll take it as it comes. That’s brave but not foolish – this is a bright, creative pair and they like the idea of embracing the unknown!
But I reckon most couples should have some sort of rehearsal. Every major set-piece event usually requires one – from a stage play to a fashion show to a school concert. And your wedding is one of the major set-piece events in your life.
Why rehearse? Well, when you bring together a number of different people with different roles in a random place with a set of variable factors (weather, timing, noise etc), anything can happen. The more you do to cover all the possibilities, the better.
A wedding rehearsal has a number of benefits:
Provides solid framework for the Big Day: everyone involved in the wedding party can enjoy the real ceremony without worrying where they should be standing, what they should be doing or saying or wondering what is going to happen next. And that prevents confusion and consequent distress at the ceremony.
- Irons out technical issues: you can synchronize the music programme, sort out the readings, decide on the format of arrivals/departures and generally work out the little niggly details (like, for example, the exchange of rings).
- Boosts everyone’s confidence: by doing all the above, an informal run-through helps everyone – but particularly the bride and groom – feel that everything will be perfect on the day.
- Plus, it’s a fun thing to do! The happy couple comes together with their most loved friends and family in a relaxed situation to put the final touches to their dream day. What could be better than that?! A rehearsal should be something to look forward to, something to enjoy. It’s a lovely part of the joyous process of wedding planning that helps consolidate the hopes and dreams of the bride and groom.
- Who should be there? In and ideal world, the whole wedding party would be there (although sometimes this can be counter-productive). However, if not everyone can attend, I’d recommend that at least one groomsman and one bridesmaid turn up. They can then give a bit of guidance to others on the day. It’s also often a good idea to familiarize little kids with the ceremony venue if they are to be flower girls or page boys. And, unless you are having a professional musician familiar with weddings in charge of your music, I strongly suggest that the person in charge of your music is also there.
Of course, a rehearsal does not have to take place at the ceremony venue – that’s often not possible for various reasons; many celebrants will offer to have a run-through at their home or office. But ideally, it should be done at the venue at approximately the same time of day as the actual ceremony. That allows you to scope out the space, whether indoor or outdoor, and make decisions such as:
- Where is the best position for any props (often the wedding planner/stylist/supplier will advise)
- (If outdoors) Where is the sun relative to where you want to stand (you don’t want it in your eyes)?
- Where will the groomsmen and bridesmaids stand and in what format eg in a straight line or semi-circle?
- Where will the bride arrive from? Who will lead the procession?
- Will the groom and groomsmen be already in position before the bridesmaids and bride arrives?
- What piece of music goes with what segment of the ceremony?
- How will the wedding rings be presented and how will they be exchanged?
- Who’s doing the readings and where will they stand?
How long should it take? It’s far from essential that the full, scripted ceremony be enacted at rehearsals; indeed that’s likely to make the process too long and formal. Instead, I reckon you should use the run-through as a shortish, relaxed opportunity to discuss what happens when and where, and resolve any outstanding issues.
And remember, it’s YOUR wedding ceremony. Up to a point, ideas and suggestions may be welcome from the other participants (including the celebrant) but your decision is final. It’s not a democratic process. You guys are in charge, so don’t let others de-rail you from what your dream scenario is or drag out the whole rehearsal process.
Finally, a word of advice: don’t totally overdo the planning. Take inspiration from the couple I mentioned at the beginning and leave just a little bit of room for some spontaneity. After all, very often the things that don’t go to plan become the most memorable!
NEXT WEEK: Look out for my Rehearsal Checklist – my comprehensive set of boxes that you’ll need to tick at your wedding rehearsal.